A couple weeks ago, I attended the ConTex Kickoff Brunch. It was mostly an introduction to the program, which aims to study mild, sports-related traumatic brain injury in patients ages 12-20 and get an idea of how TBI is being treated in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. I was able to get some important information that I didn’t cover in a previous post about TBI in relation to action sports.
There’s between 1.6 and 3.8 million reported concussions every year. Many experts believe that there is a significant amount of under-reporting due to lack of knowledge of symptoms (you don’t have to lose consciousness and CAT scans can be negative) and a strong desire to not get sidelined, whether you’re playing football or skating. Much of the focus has been on football because that’s where the funding comes from and it is America’s beloved pastime. However, you can get a concussion from any sport so it’s important to have safe practices and be aware, regardless of what you’re doing.
Women actually have an increase incidence of concussion. Some of it is due to more reporting, and some of it is due to head size and neck strength. Thus even if the female athletes are doing fewer spins at a lower height, the risk they face is nothing to overlook.
So what can the action sports community do? (That was a question I asked.) Learn about concussions and its various symptoms. Have our friends and family study them up too. Go to your annual physicals so that you and your doctor have an idea of what is “normal” for you; that will allow them to spot something out of the ordinary that could be a long-term side effect.
Football players have the Maddocks Questions to check up on an athlete who has been hit. I propose an action sports version:
1. What’s the name of the park?
2. What trick were you doing?
3. What’s the last trick you landed?
4. Who are you skating/riding with?
5. [for contests] Who’s in the lead?
Although there have been interesting developments in TBI research related to biomarkers (proteins that the body produces in response to a concussion) and genetics, lack of resources and funding have produced a need for better statistics on injured groups and long-term studies. We have no idea why some people develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (degeneration of the brain) and others don’t. Moreover, a lot of the focus remains on treatment rather than prevention. This is why it’s important for everybody to do their part in staying safe. Even though action sports has prided itself on pushing forward against all odds, sometimes it’s better to sit out.